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Topic: Freedom

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  1. #1

    Freedom

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    Apologies is this has been gone over before, but I'm a European who's fascinated by a value sytem very different from what I'm used to. So I'm honestly not baiting.But. What do Americans mean by freedom? I can't believe how often I've seen the word used here and I'm not even sure what it means. I actually did a search on the word to see if a similar question had been asked, and it seemed to crop up in practically every thread in OT.
    I think in general, Europeans see freedom very differently from Americans. We see it as, in economic terms, a 'scarce resource' to be shared out fairly by a democratic government. In other words, if I get a bit more 'freedom' someone else gets a bit less. Take an example:
    In many countries you have the right to freedom to walk wherever you want, whether it's private property or not. In America you have the right to stop people walking on your land. A bit more freedom for me is a bit less for you. Seems to me like there's only so much freedom to go round. Your whole culture is based on freedom. How do you decide how to share it out?
    "A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules,often with the assistence of unsuspecting musicians"

  2. #2
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    Re: Freedom

    Hi,

    I think that's a great question and from what you've written it seems you know the answer.

    I don't think that the majority of people here in this country have ever given it much thought; freedom for most is a simple concept of having the ability to do what one chooses to do, get what one chooses to get, and believe in what one chooses to believe - all within the bounds of the law, of course.

    Many people are unable or unwilling to understand the deeper implications that freedom must be accompanied by responsibility, care, and the concern for others that you alluded to. Unfortunately, for many, freedom becomes the means through which they can further their own self-interest.

    Jim

  3. #3

    Re: Freedom

    I would say that freedom means the ability to do as one pleases as long as it does not infringe upon others. In your example, your freedom to walk wherever you please can infringe upon the freedom of others to be left in peace, to have a well cared for yard, whatever. In my worldview, you can walk wherever you please as long as you do not walk on my property without my consent.

    In a political context, we argue a lot here about taxation and I think it's the same general philosophy. Europeans generally believe in more taxation and more benefits from the government. Similarly, many liberals feel the same way here. My personal opinion is that the government should not provide the degree of social services that it does and that government spends and wastes too much money which impacts how the middle class are able to spend their money, invest, save, etc. I don't mind helping those in need or in providing safety nets, but I would never support socialized education, medicine, etc.

  4. #4
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: Freedom

    Freedom means different things to different people: Freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom of speech etc. are the obvious examples most often reffered to, but there is, I think, an underlying definition. As you imply, every freedom must be balanced, and there is a cost. The same freedom that allows me to openly criticize the government of the United States also allows the KKK, for example, to preach hatred in the streets. The same freedom that allows me to bear arms also creates conditions for some people to abuse weapons. It is an ongoing balancing act.The definition changes constantly. How does one protect the freedom of one to bear arms vs. the freedom to live without being shot by a nut with a semi-automatic weapon? Finding a balance between the rights of people to smoke cigarettes vs. the right of people to be in a smoke-free environment? Tough questions. But the ability to search for the answers to these questions, guided by the principle of integrity, is the underlying definition of freedom in itself.

    There was a time when, I think it could be argued, that Americans knew this. I don’t think it is as much the case today. The biggest difference I think between freedom as defined in Europe and freedom as defined in the United States is that in Europe, people are in the process of defining freedom according to civility, good will, sensibility, integrity, liberty, and justice. This used to be, I think, the American view. The American process of defining freedom is now mostly based on 2,000 year old myth and economic self interest and hence, it has been argued that Europe is becoming more “free” than the United States.
    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
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  5. #5

    Re: Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian2112
    How does one protect the freedom of one to bear arms vs. the freedom to live without being shot by a nut with a semi-automatic weapon? Finding a balance between the rights of people to smoke cigarettes vs. the right of people to be in a smoke-free environment? Tough questions.
    These are only tough questions if you fail to objectively define what is and is not a right. Simply put, something can only be a right if it imposes no obligation or hardship on anyone else. For example, your right to free speech (in a public place) requires nothing of me. It costs me nothing and limits my freedom in no way.

    You refer to your "right to live without being shot by a nut", but the fact is that you have no such right. This is because in order to secure such a right, the government would have to invade the privacy of every American, not to mention their property rights, and confiscate all weapons.

    Similarly, at least with regard to private establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.) you have no such right to a smoke-free environment. If you don't like the smoke in my (private) restaurant, you have the right to leave. If I want your business badly enough, I have the right to ban smoking in my place.

    Health care is another example of a non-right that we frequently hear referred to as a right. Providing health care for everyone requires coercion from everyone (i.e. force), which in itself is a violation. Your right to health care, however nice it may sound, is no more real than your right to hair care or car care.

    The founding fathers were very careful to specify our right to the *pursuit* of happiness, as opposed to our right to be happy. That is, the government in a free society has no obligation whatsoever to make you happy, but they do have an obligation to protect your freedom to take whatever steps you deem necessary to become happy (i.e. go to school, get a job, get married, sit around on the couch all day, etc...).

    It is important to understand that freedom does not guarantee a eutopian society. There are indeed prices to pay for the privilege of living in a free society, such as knowing that you could be "shot by a nut with a semi-automatic weapon" (to use Brian's words). Bad things do happen in a free society, but history and reason tells us that they are few and far between when compared to any other type of society.

  6. #6
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: Freedom

    And thus the differences appear. As you see from the post above, and forgive me Glenm01, we can deduce that Glenm01 is probably a conservative and/or Republican . For the conservatives, any right that is not explicitly granted by the Constitution of the United States does not exist. Yet the Declaration of Independence (authored by our founding father Thomas Jefferson) clearly implies quite the opposite. I do, if fact, have the right not to be shot by a nut. How? Well, Glenm01 mentions the “pursuit of happiness”. The answer is in the context in which these words sit. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". For all the paranoia of the Republicans that the Left wing is going to break into our homes and steal our guns, it is in fact, the Right wing that is the reason we are becoming less and less free. We have the right to keep and bear arms (to protect us from our own government primarily). But according to Republican logic, we don’t have a right to become educated enough to know when we are really in danger from our government and to use our arms.
    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
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  7. #7

    Re: Freedom

    The "walking on another's property" thing is interesting. If I prevent you from waking on my property, then I infringe upon your right to go where you please.

    Case 1: I own 1,500 acres, and have built a private road across my land. You walk across it, cause no physical damage and do not come into contact with me or my family. In this case I have not been impacted in any way. My rights have not been infringed in any concrete way. But if I build a large wall I infringe your right to travel concretely.

    Case 2: The road goes by my bedroom window. You have potentially violated my privacy.

    Case 3: You walk into my home. Get the hell out!

    So we need property rights, but they shouldn't trump all reason.

    In American history this probably played itself out most clearly in the conflict between farmers and ranchers. The ranchers would drive their cattle to market, but crops were trampled. Farmers put up barbed-wire fences. The crops were now protected, but the ranchers could no longer drive the cattle to market - or they had to take much longer routes which might change from year to year.

    The obvious solution is for some land to be privately held, and other land to be publicly shared. Ideally, smart, fair people would ensure that the publicly shared land would be arranged in a way that would allow ranchers to drive to market, fishermen to fish, hunters to hunt and hikers to hike. And the farmers still get to farm.

    In America the farmers won, and the West became a lot less Wild.

    Note that before the barbed wire, when the West was still Wild that individuals had the most liberty. When the land was free, they didn't have to purchase liberty in the form of property.

    "This Land Is Your Land"

    This land is your land, This land is my land,
    from California to the New York island;
    From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and me.

    As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
    I saw above me that endless skyway:
    I saw below me that golden valley:
    This land was made for you and me.

    I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
    And all around me a voice was sounding:
    This land was made for you and me.

    When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
    And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
    As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
    This land was made for you and me.

    As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
    And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
    That side was made for you and me.

    In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
    By the relief office I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Nobody living can ever stop me,
    As I go walking that freedom highway;
    Nobody living can ever make me turn back,
    this land was made for you and me.

    -Woody Guthrie


    -JF

  8. #8

    Re: Freedom

    > "Say, can I come up and camp on your 1500 acres!? I'll clean up after myself."

    Sure. But first I have to find the deed. It's in a buried treasure chest. I have the map. "X" marks the spot. But there's a bank on my "X", and they won't let me bring my pick and dynamite into the office.

    Oh well, you'll have to come up to my 1.5 acres. No canoe necessary.

    -JF

  9. #9

    Re: Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian2112
    And thus the differences appear. As you see from the post above, and forgive me Glenm01, we can deduce that Glenm01 is probably a conservative and/or Republican . For the conservatives, any right that is not explicitly granted by the Constitution of the United States does not exist. Yet the Declaration of Independence (authored by our founding father Thomas Jefferson) clearly implies quite the opposite. I do, if fact, have the right not to be shot by a nut. How? Well, Glenm01 mentions the “pursuit of happiness”. The answer is in the context in which these words sit. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". For all the paranoia of the Republicans that the Left wing is going to break into our homes and steal our guns, it is in fact, the Right wing that is the reason we are becoming less and less free. We have the right to keep and bear arms (to protect us from our own government primarily). But according to Republican logic, we don’t have a right to become educated enough to know when we are really in danger from our government and to use our arms.
    Brian,

    While I agree that you have the "right" to be free from harm in a general sense, the idea that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independance with the implication that the people are entitled to rights by the State not expressed in the Constitution is completely erroneous. If you read the Federalist Papers, it is clear that Jefferson espoused limiting the rights granted by the government.

    There is a big philosophical difference between the left and right in that the left believes that most rights are granted and protected by the state whereas the right (at least many of us) believe that our rights are granted by God and some of these rights are protected by the State. This is what Jefferson believed and often wrote eloquently about.

    And please spare me the line about "according to Republican logic, we don’t have a right to become educated enough to know when we are really in danger from our government and to use our arms." This really is nothing more than jingoistic drivel. Most of the worst performing public school systems are in cities run by democrats and democrats are the ones that have pushed such educational reforms as "Outcome Based Education", teaching African American children in ebonics, doing away with grades, etc. With rights come responsibilities, and this is certainly true of the right to keep and bear arms, which I support.

  10. #10
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: Freedom

    You make a good point Wes . And I poorly articulated this idea. Just to demonstrate where my “leftist attitude” ends, I do not believe that citizens have a RIGHT to healthcare (in the sense that the government provides it – other than maybe emergencies, etc.). Living here in South Texas, I can tell you that it is basically uninhabitable without an Air Conditioner. Do I have a RIGHT to an air conditioner? No. But I have the right to own one. Similarly, I don’t have a RIGHT to have the government take care of my health, I must do that myself, but I have a right to seek out medical assistance from the doctor of my choice (assuming I can pay for such services). What is a right and what is a privilege? The basic differences between the major political parties (with regard to freedom at least), have to do with sorting all this out. Now, education is different. Why? Because Thomas Jefferson clearly stated on numerous occasions that this republic could not stand unless its citizens were properly educated. This is a matter that goes beyond the idea that education is essential for each individual (which it is), but it is a matter of national survival and hence, the government must provide it, or help individuals acquire it. Yet, it is not a "right" as defined in the constitution. The educational programs you cite may have failed, but they were experiments (as was “Head Start”), which, I think, has proven somewhat useful. Jefferson knew that a government should be as unobtrusive as possible, and yet still have the wisdom to know when to provide assistance. And thank you for confirming what I said earlier, that any right that is not explicitly granted in the Constitution of the United States does not exist according to the right-wing. Your citing the federalist papers is fair enough, but he also owned slaves, and was not a champion of slavery. Everything must be taken in context. For example, I was always puzzled why our Declaration of Independence starts with such a “Socialist” phrase: “We hold these truths to be self- evident – that ALL men are created equal…”. This is clearly NOT the case. If you will allow a Liberal to make a small edit : We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal IN THE EYES OF GOD. Why isn’t this spelled out for us? Because he unfortunately assumed that it goes without saying. Reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the same close minded way that some people read the bible is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
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